The Three Acts
Traditionally for thousands of years dramas have been structured into Three Acts. For our purposes here, ours is not to question it, but to just do it. In a novel of 100,000 words, Act One runs about 20,000 words. Act Two comes in and runs up to about the 75,000 word point, followed by Act Three for the final 25,000 words.
In Act One of your book we meet the Lead and her Normal Every Day Life. These are the Beginnings, Who and What she is, and where the reader must Connect with her. The Opposition is introduced. There's a Great Disturbance, and the Antagonist, which forces her to pursue The Objective, That Thing, in order to survive or win through, and she is pushed irrevocably through a Doorway Of Action But No Return, into Act Two.
In Act Two of your book the Lead pursues That Thing crucial to his Existence but meets Opposition and Great Conflict from the Much More Powerful Antagonist and Other Forces (internal and external). There is Great Passion, Emotion, Complexity, Subplot, and effort to make the Reader Care. There is Forward Movement, and Action in pursuit of That Thing, and the Lead gathers himself for a Final Inevitable Battle for the Highest Possible Stakes. Another Shattering Event then forces the Lead through a second Doorway Of No Return into Act Three.
In Act Three of your book we have the Main Confrontation With The Antagonist, Great Conflict, Obstacles, and The Final Battle for That Thing. All looks Lost for the Lead. But, the Lead scores a surprise knockout punch, and wins through, vanquishes the Antagonist and gets That Thing. There follows the Aftermath, Sea-Change, Tying Up Loose Ends, and Resolution.
Or Is It?
A slight variation is the Mythic Structure outlined by Joseph Campbell in 1938 (The Hero With A Thousand Faces), and popularized by George Lucas' Star Wars.
In Part One of the mythic structure we meet the Hero and the Hero's Everyday Real World. He's just piddling around in it. But, there is a Great Disturbance and then a Call To Action (The Princess calls for help, and, "You must learn the ways of the Force, Luke.") But the Hero rejects the call (Luke must stay behind and work the farm.)
However something terrible happens that propels the Hero forward into Reluctant Acceptance Of The call (Luke's family is killed by the Empire), and he is Forced Forward Into Action through a Doorway Of No Return. He crosses a threshold into another existence he can never leave (Mos Eisley Spaceport, etc.)
In Part Two of mythic structure, he receives the help of a Mystic Mentor (Obi Wan Kenobi), and a magic talisman (a light saber), and he encounters the Dark Invader Of His Life/Mind, an Antagonist---a Mythic Wizard (Darth). He also builds up to and encounters a Dark Moment within himself which he must conquer (The Dark Side Temptation). He builds and prepares himself for The Final Battle.
In Part Three of mythic structure he wins the Battle, secures the Magic Elixir/Secret/Knowledge, and Returns to The Real World to spread the Good News and/or benefits.
* The plot of your book is carried by Characters, Settings, Dialogue, Pace, Originality. If these Elements don't move the Plot Forward, Cut or Edit them.
Next, Let's look more closely at the Beginning, Middle, and End---what makes them Hook the Reader.
Causes Jeffrey Friedberg Supports